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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

And So It Ends, And So It Begins by Ben Jones

May 1 marks the end of this admissions cycle and the beginning of the next.

It’s almost May.

For those of us who are not on the waitlist committee, May 1 (really May 2, since May 1 is a Sunday) marks the end of this admissions cycle and the beginning of the next. From an admissions perspective, it’s time to say farewell to the class of 2009 and hello to the class of 2010.

09’s – whether admitted or rejected, enrolling or otherwise, I sincerely hope that you will keep in touch. It’s been a true pleasure getting to know each of you this year. You are amazing, talented people – and our correspondence has been the highlight of my experience here at MIT. If you’re here in the fall, drop by 3-107 and say hi to us from time to time – our door is almost always open. If you’re not here in the fall, drop us an email and tell us of your adventures.

Class of 2010 – welcome to the MIT Admissions blogging community. We hope that you’ll visit often, ask your questions, share your experiences. Don’t forget to introduce yourselves! We met lots of folks at CPW who were regular readers but who had never commented. If you don’t mind, comment at least once – just to say hi so we know you’re out there.

* * *

Lots has happened since CPW. It’s been a time of catchup and recovery, both mentally and physically. I threw a party on the Saturday following CPW, which most of my colleagues attended. It was fun, crazy, and ridiculous all at the same time. I didn’t know that admissions people could rock that hard… but indeed they can.

We had a lot to celebrate. First, we’re so proud of the class that we admitted. We’re proud of you – for being who you are – and proud of ourselves for finding you. Second, it was a celebration of simply having survived the previous 6 months. It’s not until one looks back that one realizes the extent of what the winter of an admissions cycle can take from a person. You guys undoubtedly know what I’m talking about – now imagine going through it every single year. :-)

The weather at CPW was fantastic. I used to think of the arrival of Spring simply as a symbol that one has survived the winter. This year that feeling was compounded – the arrival of Spring coincided with CPW, a weekend that is (for all intents and purposes) the true end of the cycle for many of us. The whole coincidence just seemed fitting.

* * *

My boss (Lorelle) is leaving MIT to get her PhD. She was one of about 7 people in the world to be accepted into her program (and you thought MIT was hard to get into). I am incredibly proud of her. At the same time, I (and I am not alone) don’t know what I’m going to do without her next year.

It’s sortof like in the movies, when a kid accomplishes a ton of incredible things because his mentor truly believes in him and his potential. And then the mentor is gone (in the movies the mentor usually gets killed instead of leaving to get a doctorate, but work with me here) and the kid has to not only carry on, but become even better – because he owes it to the mentor to do so.

That’s sortof the way it is with Lorelle leaving. I, and Matt, and others will continue to build this thing we’ve been building all year with the blogs and MyMIT and our general attempts to create this community and demystify MIT admissions. But there won’t be a day that I won’t think about the things that Lorelle gave to us that made it all possible.

And if I’m still here in 18 years when she finishes her dissertation, you can bet your sweet bottom that I’ll do my best to get her back here. ;-)

* * *

I was expecting a lull in my workload after CPW, but it hasn’t exactly worked out that way. There are just so many projects that I had to put on the back burner during reading/selection/CPW etc. So what’s on the plate?

First, I’m in the process of setting up an admissions blog server that will be more reliable (and feature-rich) than the one that most of my colleagues currently use. A big goal for the coming year is to expand the blog program further, including the launch of an admissions group blog where guests such as Marilee will be able to post occasionally.

We’ll also be defining some “acceptable posting guidelines” and sharing them with you. Nothing major, don’t worry, but the program is big enough now that we need to start to think about some structure.

Second, I’m creating strict production schedules for every print publication that we produce here and evaluating lead times and deadlines in an effort to make the office more efficient. I’ve purchased an enormous bulletin board on which I plan to attach each piece, in the order in which we send them to you. Perhaps I’ll post a picture when it’s finished. :-)

Third, there is a lot of work to be done on MyMIT. We have hired many of the student editors, and yesterday’s software build hopefully gave me the power to add new portlets by myself instead of having to request them from the tech folks. If that holds true when I test later, you’ll see a bunch of new things early next week.

Fourth, I’m trying to make a plan for the summer as far as MyMIT is concerned. With no classes or student groups in session, what kinds of content would you guys like to see over the summer?

Fifth, it’s time to think about the application for entry year 2006. Which brings me to…

* * *

…my last topic for this post: essays. We often change the essay questions from year to year (1) to improve upon those of previous years and (2) quite simply, to keep things interesting for us. :-)

So – give me your essay question ideas. If we like one of them enough, you might just see it on next year’s app.

* * *

Hope you guys are all doing well and enjoying your last few weeks before summer. Let me know how everything is going!


29 responses to “And So It Ends, And So It Begins”

  1. Meder says:

    am i the first??? WOW!
    ok Ben, cool post!

  2. Meder says:

    here’s a topic:

    write a 500-word essay on what you think MIT is
    (culture, people, campus life, academics)

  3. Jane W says:

    No, I don’t think so Meder. Nice idea, but it wouldn’t tell them who the student is. I prefer something more like “Write an essay on what you plan to do with your MIT education”. With such a broad topic, people can say what their passions in life are, how they plan to continue them, and, if they don’t know what they want to do, can talk about themselves and possible futures.

    2nd post!

  4. jpsi says:

    1) What psychological tricks would you use to get in…

    2) Present your consciousness, way of thinking. (in such a way that we could make ourselves a mental model, and hence test it remotely for every case. I mean like uploading operating systems for virtual Ti.)

  5. Kiersten says:


    1.)Sometimes the best times of your life are also the busiest and toughest. Describe a time that was very demanding, yet rewarding, to you, and what you learned from the experience.

    2.)Pretend your best friend is a Puffin, where would you stash him/her in your dorm room?


    ps I can answer the last one, very easily. smile

  6. Lipei says:

    5th! i really like ipsi’s “consciousness” prompt b/c it’s something really innovative and interesting.

    ben, i think MIT should head towards these new innovative and non-standard prompts: kinda like hopkins’ $10 day question. i think these types of questions would give a unique prespective into the personality of next year’s (my year!) applicants.

  7. amrik says:

    I have just a quick question about the big packet that gets sent in mid-May, is it sent via regular mail?

  8. Melda says:

    I really like Fabrice’s idea. it’s neither too specific nor too broad, and does seem like it would result in some intriguing answers smile

    re: Lipei’s comment about the JHU essay

    actually, i thought that $10 thing was a ridiculous topic. It adds so much stress to an already difficult application, because it gets you thinking about “will this answer make me look lazy? or greedy? or hedonistic? or immature? or too serious? or fake?” and you end up planning your essay to be what you think the admissions office wants to hear instead of what you really feel. The question is just too constraining (who can express their plans and dreams for college and beyond when all they have to work with is $10?)…and just the fact that money is involved also makes it hard to answer.

    The question is certainly innovative and interesting, and those are both positive things, but i don’t think it’s broad enough to reflect an applicant’s personality accurately. It could work well as a question for a short paragraph answer, but i feel that the major essay in the application should be something that allows a bit more…freedom.

    i’m still working on coming up with a satisfying essay topic. as soon as i get one, i’ll post it here smile

  9. sky9073 says:

    Hello from a hopeful 2010-er in Mexico City!

    For an essay question… how about: Imagine you’re looking into an enchanted mirror. What do you see?

  10. Mike D says:

    For sure, MIT students deal with a lot of stress but MIT applicants probably deal with just as much if not more. So here’s an idea:

    Students need their rest. What do you do to let off steam?

  11. Fabrice says:

    Essay question?

    “If you could travel anywhere in the world for one month, and neither time nor money was an object or concern, where would you go, and why?”

    I ask this question of many, MANY people to gauge how “big” they think. The answers reveal a lot. grin

  12. Laura says:

    So on that topic of college junk mail schedule (not that the mail from MIT is junk, of course, but it’s a generic term I use for the 3 foot high stack I’ve accumulated over the last 2 years…you understand), we were told we’d be getting a packet of info in May…well not to be over-anxious or anything, but when in May? See, May consists of APs and Prom (both of which I’m not looking forward to- formalwear…yuck) so I’m looking for some enjoyment in the month. =)

    As for summer content, I’d really like to know what this Orientation business is about. (Well I know what it is, of course, but details are nice.)

    And I’m working on the essay question….

  13. Prashant says:

    > “in such a way that we could make ourselves a mental model, and hence test it remotely for every case. I mean like uploading operating systems for virtual Ti.”

    Charge! Jpsi stole my idea! wink

  14. Ann says:

    “And if I’m still here in 18 years when she finishes her dissertation…”

    Wow, why does it take that long?

  15. jpsi says:

    I did???? I did not want to. :/

  16. Fiona says:

    I must say that I though MIT’s essay topics this year were very difficult to write about, but I guess that is sortof the point…

    I would suggest a topic used by the MIT Society of Women Engineer’s in their scholarship application:
    Describe the one experience that has most shaped you into the person you are today.

  17. naventus says:

    Haven’t posted here before, but have been a reader all this time! See you in the fall Ben!

    -B. Zhu

  18. Katie says:

    I don’t know… it would be tough to top the infamous UChicago ‘mustard’ question of this past year :>

    I totally agree with the last comment on Question B from the MIT app. When I first looked at it, I thought it would be a boring topic, but as I started writing it really got me thinking and I feel that I was really able to expand upon my personality and my experiences. I have to give a speech on ‘my community’ at my high school’s upcoming academic banquet, (ugh), and that essay is really going to be the foundation for what I’m going to say.

  19. Shrenik says:

    I thought (and it might just be me) that the “B” question on the MIT application was nothing short of perfect… it was very, very open and both the way people interpreted the question and the answer itself revealed insights into their character. The “A” question, I belive, is also a good question. Personally, I felt that the MIT application had the best essay questions of any school I applied to.

  20. mit09 woohoo says:

    While this is going to sound weird coming from someone who’s going to MIT this fall, I actually really liked “that other school’s” open question of filling a box with anything that interested you. It gives you the chance to use more than just words in your defense. Personally, I used string and pictures and stuff… I don’t know; I’d just like to see a question that gave the opportunity to use more than just words. After all, this isn’t a writing college…

  21. jpsi says:

    hehe. I was painting by letters and signs smile.

    most of states. That is why it had not
    turned my attention at first. Solution was very simple, though unconventional. The string was entangled with the
    foot bridge girder and a wooden barrier

  22. Akash says:

    What was the demise of Wilson’s League of Nations?
    ….just kidding

  23. Christina says:

    What office supply do you identify with the most and why?

    I could’ve written a spectacular essay about my love for post-it notes.

  24. Jane Eyre says:

    Hm…for essay topics, I really had fun with Stanford’s “Write a note to a future roommate revealing something about yourself”; perhaps a modification of that?

    Or maybe a show us who you are via anything(ex. a poem, a mathematical formula, an essay, a story).

  25. jpsi says:

    “About what would you write to be admitted at MIT, and why?” smilesmile:)

  26. Anonymous says:

    I really liked one of stanford’s short-answer questions:

    “Jot a note to your future roommate relating a personal experience that reveals something about you.” (Max 1500 char including whitespace)

  27. Ben says:

    Thanks for all of your great essay ideas guys! Next Big Mailing (NBM) questions to be answered in a forthcoming front-page post.

    Ann – I was just making fun of Lorelle – it won’t really take her 18 years. grin

    Jpsi – what pics do you mean?

  28. jpsi says:

    1) The pics that we were refering to in application, for example by giving an www adress [I did so…].

    2) Pic in the fragment, only small ideogram: “in such a way: >> _/.”

  29. Saad Zaheer says:

    Well Done everyone,
    just a formal note of Congrats to everyone from adcoms to admits to all those who were just observers of the process.


    Ben, Matt, Daniel, and Mitra have done a terrific job with the admissions and keeping us updated on the blogs; we are all very thankful!